Pennsylvania casinos experienced less-than-stellar revenue numbers in August, and while it may be a blip on the radar, it could mean redoubled efforts for legalizing online gambling.
The August numbers = not great news
Casino revenue had generally been humming along in Pennsylvania; if operators weren’t growing, things were generally at least staying level. But August was not a very good month for the gaming industry in the state.
Pennsylvania casinos had a nearly $7 million drop in slot machine revenues for July, as 10 of its 12 casinos — including Sands in Bethlehem — saw reductions in August, compared with a year ago, according to figures released Friday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
The $203 million in slot machine revenues brought in statewide was a 3.3 percent reduction over the $210 million in August 2014.
According to the MC, Mount Airy saw a nine percent reduction in revenue year over year, while Sands had a poor showing just a month after a record July.
Still, it’s not a reason for concern, at least according to the PA gaming board, which attributed the YoY to decline to the fact that there was one fewer Friday in August this year than there was in 2014.
PA casinos want more revenue, not less
Whether the state’s casinos are worried after the poor August showing, or if they agree with the gaming board’s assessment, is unclear. What we do know is that there are concerns that growth for brick-and-mortar casinos has already plateaued.
Coupled with last month’s numbers, could that result in an increased lobbying push from the state’s gaming interests? Might there be more willingness to back an online gambling-only bill, instead of a more wide-ranging gaming bill that affects slot machines and an increased ability to serve liquor?
If a bill doesn’t happen now, the possibility of internet gambling regulation is likely shelved until 2016. So it’s feasible that the poor month could increase casinos’ sense of urgency on the matter.
Where online gambling sits in the budget showdown: Still on the sidelines
The slow revenue month comes in the midst of the ongoing budget impasse in Pennsylvania, which has now surpassed two months in length.
It is still not out of the realm of possibility that online gambling could become a part of the solution in bridging the gap between Democratic governor Tom Wolf and Republican legislators, who still haven’t found much common ground on expenditures, or how to fund them with revenue. Right now, the focus is on passing a stopgap bill to fund the government in the short term.
From the past few months, we have learned that:
- Online gambling remains a fairly non-controversial way to generate state revenue.
- Nearly all casinos (Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem excluded) are in favor of iGaming, they just disagree with some of the details in gaming legislation that has been introduced.
Even so, one bad month is likely not enough to push PA’s casinos into panic mode. Online gambling legislation is a long-term play, and casinos will back an iGaming measure only if it is in their best interest moving forward, not as a quick revenue fix.
Photo by Antoine Taveneaux used under license CC BY-SA 3.0.